Morgridge scientists illuminate structures vital to virus replication

In the fight against the viruses that invade everyday life, seeing and understanding the battleground is essential. Scientists at the Morgridge Institute for Research have, for the first time, imaged molecular structures vital to how a major class of viruses replicates within infected cells.

“The challenge is a bit like being a car mechanic and not being able to see the engine or how it’s put together in detail,” says Paul Ahlquist, director of virology at the Morgridge Institute and professor of oncology and molecular virology at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. “This work is our first look at the engine.”

The research, published June 27 in the journal eLife, uses pioneering cryo-electron tomography to reveal the complex viral replication process in vivid detail, opening up new avenues to potentially disrupt, dismantle or redirect viral machinery.

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UW-Madison inches up from 7th to 6th place in world race for patents

Karen Herzog , Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

With 168 patents issued last year, the University of Wisconsin-Madison moved back into sixth place among 100 universities surveyed around the world last year, according to a news release from the school.

UW inched up from seventh place among the Top 100 Worldwide Universities for U.S. utility patents granted in 2016. It had been in sixth place a couple of years ago.

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MSOE students try to develop synthetic blood substitute in ambitious project

Guy Boulton , Milwaukee Journal Sentinel 1:51 p.m. CT May 30, 2017

For the past four years, successive teams of seniors at the Milwaukee School of Engineering have worked on a research project not short on ambition: developing a synthetic blood substitute that can transport oxygen in the body.

The project understandably may seem quixotic — or, at the least, maybe a little too ambitious. At least one multibillion-dollar corporation and several well-funded startups have failed in similar pursuits.

And the MSOE students are, after all, undergraduates, not post-docs with PhDs working at a large research university.

But each MSOE team — in some years, there have been more than one — working with Wujie Zhang, an assistant professor of biomolecular engineering, for their required senior project has overcome the next challenge of the ultimate quest.

The students also have learned the value of patience and persistence in research.

 “That is not to say it didn’t come without a fight,” said Kellen O’Connell, one of the five students on this year’s team. “I definitely had my doubts along the way.”

 The research project was the outgrowth of a serendipitous discovery by Zhang and Jung Lee, also an assistant professor at the school, while working on a way to encapsulate a drug for colon cancer in natural polymers derived from crab shells and orange peels.

 They discovered that the substance took the biconcave shape — having a surface that curves inward on the top and bottom — of red blood cells.

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University of Wisconsin - Madison Engineer Aims to Grow Spinal Tissue in Lab

By Silke Schmid

For a soldier who suffered a spinal cord injury on the battlefield, the promise of regenerative medicine is to fully repair the resulting limb paralysis. But that hope is still years from reality.

“When regenerative medicine started, its stated goal was to replace damaged body parts and restore their function,” says Randolph Ashton, a University of Wisconsin–Madison professor of biomedical engineering. “But one of its less-anticipated applications is the ability to create human tissues and watch diseases occur in a dish, which is extremely powerful for developing new therapies.”

Not only powerful, but efficient. Studying diseases in lab-created tissue may help reduce the price tag — now roughly $1.8 billion — for bringing a new drug to market, which is one of the reasons Ashton received a National Science Foundation CAREER Award for advancing tissue engineering of the human spinal cord. During the project’s five-year funding period, his lab in the Wisconsin Institute for Discovery will fine-tune the technology for growing a neural tube, the developmental predecessor of the spinal cord, from scratch.

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MSOE Students Making Advancements In Artificial Blood Creation

Students at the Milwaukee School of Engineering say they are working on a possible solution to blood shortages that we have seen in Milwaukee County lately.

The school is calling this discovery groundbreaking and they believe it could potentially change the blood industry in the future.

Students in the bio-molecular engineering program here at MSOE have been working on creating red blood cells for the past several years.

Original story with video

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Antenna design turns entire vehicles into broadcasting equipment

High-frequency antennas transmit radio waves across vast distances and even over mountain ranges using very little energy, making them ideal for military communications. These devices, however, have one big problem: They need to be huge to operate efficiently.

Instead of adding more bulk, University of Wisconsin–Madison engineers are working to increase the effective size of antennas by turning the military vehicles that carry them into transmitters — using the structures that support the antennas themselves to help broadcast signals.

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UW-Madison engineers reveal record-setting flexible phototransistor

MADISON, Wis. -- Inspired by mammals' eyes, University of Wisconsin-Madison electrical engineers have created the fastest, most responsive flexible silicon phototransistor ever made.

The innovative phototransistor could improve the performance of myriad products -- ranging from digital cameras, night-vision goggles and smoke detectors to surveillance systems and satellites -- that rely on electronic light sensors. Integrated into a digital camera lens, for example, it could reduce bulkiness and boost both the acquisition speed and quality of video or still photos.

Developed by UW-Madison collaborators Zhenqiang "Jack" Ma, professor of electrical and computer engineering, and research scientist Jung-Hun Seo, the high-performance phototransistor far and away exceeds all previous flexible phototransistor parameters, including sensitivity and response time.

The researchers published details of their advance this week in the journal Advanced Optical Materials.

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UW-Stout: 8th Annual Manufacturing Advantage Conference & Technology Showcase November 4-5, 2015

University of Wisconsin - Stout Campus: Menomonie, Wisconsin

The Manufacturing Advantage Conference provides a forum for manufacturers from across the region to learn best practices and participate in practical learning through interactive, hands-on breakout sessions, industry-expert keynote speakers and ample networking opportunities. We strive to carry on a solid tradition of providing impactful experiences to help manufacturers succeed in the areas of strategic direction, top-line growth, process improvement and people and culture.

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Lovell looks to boost Marquette research

Marquette University President Michael Lovell says he wants to double research at Marquette over the next five years.

Speaking at Thursday’s WIN-Milwaukee meeting, Lovell highlighted investments the university has made in facilities and programs that foster innovation, including the purchase of 12.5 acres in downtown Milwaukee that will house an athletic research facility. Developed in partnership with the Milwaukee Bucks and an unnamed health care provider, Lovell said the facility will provide a global draw to the university.

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UW-Madison: Dark energy to be topic of Space Place event

"To Infinity and Beyond: The Accelerating Universe," a live broadcast from the World Science Festival about dark energy, an antigravitational force that confounds the conventional laws of physics, will be hosted on the evening of May 28 by UW-Madison'sSpace Place.

Originating from New York and moderated by internationally known theoretical physicist and bestselling author Lawrence Krauss, the broadcast will take place from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Thursday. Space Place, the UW-Madison astronomy outreach outpost, is located in the Villager Mall, 2300 S. Park St. The event will be held in the mall atrium.

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UWM receives $300,000 to create 'Innovation Corps' site

UWM receives $300,000 to create 'Innovation Corps' site

By Kathleen Gallagher of the Journal Sentinel April 21, 2015

The National Science Foundation has awarded a $300,000, three-year grant to the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee to become an "Innovation Corps" site to recruit and train 90 teams to commercialize their research over the next three years.

UWM is collaborating on the project with Marquette University, Medical College of Wisconsin, the Milwaukee School of Engineering and Concordia University Wisconsin.

The I-Corps program, part of the federal agency's National Innovation Network, is the "gold standard" for accelerating ideas into the marketplace, said Brian Thompson, president of the UWM Research Foundation.

"This is a way to excite faculty about entrepreneurial thinking and how research can be applied to real products that can get to market," said Ilya Avdeev, assistant professor of mechanical engineering and director of the Milwaukee program.

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UW-Milwaukee researchers to lead search for gravitational waves

By Mark Johnson

Researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee will lead a new effort to detect low-frequency gravitational waves, a discovery that would give mankind a new picture of the universe and confirm one of the last unresolved predictions of Albert Einstein's theory of general relativity.

The project, which includes more than 60 scientists and students at 11 institutions, has just received a five-year, $14.5 million grant from the National Science Foundation.

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Stem cell advance yields mature heart muscle cells

by Renee Meiller

A team of University of Wisconsin-Madison researchers has induced human embryonic stem cells (hESC) to differentiate toward pure-population, mature heart muscle cells, or cardiomyocytes.

A substrate patterned with a precisely sized series of channels played a critical role in the advance.

Published online in the journal Biomaterials, the research could open the door to advances in areas that include tissue engineering and drug discovery and testing.

Researchers currently can differentiate hESC into immature heart muscle cells. Those cells, however, don't develop the robust internal structures — repeating sections of muscle cells called sarcomeres — that enable cardiomyocytes to produce the contracting force that allows the heart to pump blood. Other cell components that allow heart muscle cells to communicate and work together also are less developed in immature cardiomyocytes.

One barrier to efforts to produce more mature cells is the culture surface itself; hESC are notoriously finicky. "It's really hard to culture stem cells effectively and to provide them with an environment that's going to help them to thrive and differentiate in the way you want," says lead author Wendy Crone, a professor of engineering physics, biomedical engineering and materials science and engineering at UW-Madison.

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Oil spill cleanup by sponge: Madison scientists tout tidy technology

By Thomas Content of the Journal Sentinel

In a development arising from nanotechnology research, scientists in Madison have created a spongelike material that could provide a novel and sustainable way to clean up oil spills.

It's known as an aerogel, but it could just as well be called a "smart sponge."

To demonstrate how it works, researchers add a small amount of red dye to diesel, making the fuel stand out in a glass of water. The aerogel is dipped in the glass and within minutes, the sponge has soaked up the diesel. The aerogel is now red, and the glass of water is clear.

"It was very effective," said Shaoqin "Sarah" Gong, who runs a biotechnology-nanotechnology lab at the Wisconsin Institute for Discovery in Madison.

"So if you had an oil spill, for example, the idea is you could throw this aerogel sheet in the water and it would start to absorb the oil very quickly and efficiently," said Gong, a University of Wisconsin-Madison associate professor of biomedical engineering. "Once it's fully saturated, you can take it out and squeeze out all the oil."

The material's absorbing capacity is reduced somewhat after each use, but the product "can be reused for a couple of cycles," Gong said.

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UW 'ideas factory' looks to turn research into economic growth

By Kathleen Gallagher of the Journal Sentinel

When Rebecca Blank arrived at the University of Wisconsin-Madison last summer, she became chancellor of one of the largest academic research universities in the world, but one that has an uneven track record for commercializing that work.

UW-Madison had nearly $1.2 billion in research spending yet launched only four start-ups in 2012, according to the Association of University Technology Managers. Blank wants to improve that performance and has a great opportunity in front of her.

As she settles into the job, Blank is overseeing the hiring of three key economic development leaders and a new university-driven commercialization effort. Blank says she wants "a real step-up in ways we engage in the economic development agenda for the state."

During a four-year stint as deputy U.S. commerce secretary, Blank says she learned that economically successful regions attract investment and industries by building partnerships between the public, private and educational sectors — and there is always a large research institution involved.

"The University of Wisconsin-Madison is that research center. It is the ideas factory and the innovation center for the state," Blank said. "It has got to be a partner with the state and with the private sector if we're going to attract the high-tech manufacturing, nutrition, software, health care businesses of the 21st century."

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Q&A: How WARF Plans to Stay Relevant in Lean Times for Tech Transfer

Angela Shah

Quick, name one of the oldest—if not the oldest—university tech transfer institutions in the country.

If your brain automatically took you to a spot in New England or sunny California, think again. It’s the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation, or WARF, which was founded nearly 90 years ago in 1925.

What would become WARF started when Harry Steenbock, a University of Wisconsin biochemistry professor, discovered a way to increase the vitamin D content of food, which could eliminate rickets, a crippling bone disease in children caused by a deficiency in that vitamin. Quaker Oats offered him $900,000—worth almost $12 million today—for the rights to his invention.

But Steenbock believed that the university should benefit from research he had conducted there. And so, he began to petition regents to set up a foundation composed of alumni that would manage patents from university research, and license the inventions to people in the business world who could make them into useful, profitable products. Any royalty income from the products would flow back to the foundation, and be put back into additional UW research, creating what WARF founders envisioned would be a virtuous cycle.

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UW-Madison, WARF: Announce new tech transfer partnership

MADISON - The University of Wisconsin-Madison and the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF) today announced the launch of a major new partnership focused on entrepreneurship on the UW-Madison campus, building on a long legacy of collaboration to move scientific innovation to the marketplace.

In defining, co-funding, and launching D2P - shorthand for Discovery to Product - UW-Madison and WARF seek to more effectively cultivate a culture of entrepreneurship among faculty and students, and better support the formation of new companies, while systematically expanding the number of innovations that reach the market through startups or licensing arrangements with established companies.

"D2P is a big step forward in our support of entrepreneurship among both faculty and students," says UW-Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank, explaining that her time at the U.S. Department of Commerce reinforced her belief in universities as the "idea factories" required to keep American companies competitive. "I want to make sure that UW-Madison is on the cutting edge of entrepreneurship and technology commercialization."

D2P will be funded initially through a $1.6 million commitment from UW-Madison with matching funds from WARF.

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UWM physicists win prestigious National Science Foundation grant

By Mark Johnson of the Journal Sentinel

Physicists at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, who have been developing three dimensional images of the structure and movement of proteins, won a prestigious National Science Foundation grant Wednesday.

The team, whose work could help drug companies design new medications, will share in a $25 million grant with colleagues at seven other institutions. UWM's share will come to a little less than $4 million over 5 years.

Proteins are crucial to virtually every human action from breathing to thinking and many diseases result from problems with how they are made or how they function.

Six hundred applications were received for grants to establish National Science and Technology Centers. Just three were accepted. In addition to the award made to UWM and its partners grants were given to groups led by Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

"It's like the Olympic Games where there are three medals," said Abbas Ourmazd, a member of the team that won the grant and a distinguished professor of physics and electrical engineering. "It's an objective metric for the league UWM is playing in."

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UW-Madison model of common cold virus could lead to better drugs

DAVID WAHLBERG | Wisconsin State Journal | dwahlberg@madison.com | 608-252-6125

UW-Madison scientists haven’t cured the common cold, but they may have explained why nobody has — in a discovery that could lead to better drugs against sneezes and sniffles.

Campus researchers constructed a model of rhinovirus C, a particularly problematic strain of cold virus identified just seven years ago, and showed how it differs from rhinoviruses A and B.

Rhinoviruses cause about 85 percent of colds and account for some ear and sinus infections, bronchitis, pneumonia and asthma attacks.

Drugs against rhinoviruses haven’t done well in clinical trials. That is likely because they didn’t protect against rhinovirus C, according to the new study in today’s edition of the journal Virology.

“There was always a high failure rate,” said Ann Palmenberg, a UW-Madison biochemistry professor who led the research. “The drugs didn’t work against the Cs.”

The three-dimensional model Palmenberg’s lab designed of the protein shell of rhinovirus C could help scientists find a receptor that could be targeted by new drugs, she said.

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Top 10 Colleges for Tech CEOs -- Marquette University at #6

Revenge of the Nerds

Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg have shown that you don't need to graduate from college in order to lead a giant technology company.

But they're the exceptions. Bloomberg Rankings analyzed the alma maters of 250 chief executive officers of U.S. tech companies with a market value of more than $1 billion.

Full List

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Groups attack Wisconsin Alumni Foundation's embryonic stem cell patent

By Kathleen Gallagher of the Journal Sentinel

Two nonprofit groups are continuing their challenge to one of the Wisconsin Alumni Foundation's key embryonic stem cell patents by asking a federal appeals court to invalidate it.

The Public Patent Foundation, based in New York, and Consumer Watchdog, Santa Monica, Calif., filed a brief Tuesday with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. The Public Patent Foundation was one of the successful challengers in the recently decided case in which the Supreme Court ruled that genes cannot be patented.

"WARF's broad patent on all human embryonic stem cells is invalid for a number of reasons and we are confident the Court of Appeals will agree," said Dan Ravicher, the foundation's executive director. The groups believe that all researchers should have unfettered access to embryonic stem cells, which scientists believe could help treat many diseases.

A WARF spokeswoman declined to comment, saying the foundation needed to review the filing with its attorneys.

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Waisman scientists model human disease in stem cells

by David Tenenbaum

 

Many scientists use animals to model human diseases. Mice can be obese or display symptoms of Parkinson's disease. Rats get Alzheimer's and diabetes.

But animal models are seldom perfect, and so scientists are looking at a relatively new type of stem cell, called the induced pluripotent stem cell (iPS cell), that can be grown into specialized cells that become useful models for human disease.

IPS cells are usually produced by reprogramming a skin sample into a primitive form that is able to develop into all of the specialized cells in the body. In the laboratories at the Waisman Center at UW-Madison, scientists are growing iPS cells into models of disorders caused by defective nerve cells. The technology depends on work pioneered over the past decade or so by Su-Chun Zhang, a neuroscientist who leads the iPS Core at Waisman, which also produces cells for other investigators on campus.

The multidisciplinary Waisman Center, now in its 40th year, combines treatment with clinical and basic research to address many of the most complex and disabling disorders of development.

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Engineered stem cell advance points toward treatment for ALS

by David Tenenbaum

MADISON, Wis. — Transplantation of human stem cells in an experiment conducted at the University of Wisconsin-Madison improved survival and muscle function in rats used to model ALS, a nerve disease that destroys nerve control of muscles, causing death by respiratory failure.

ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) is sometimes called “Lou Gehrig’s disease." According to the ALS Association, the condition strikes about 5,600 Americans each year. Only about half of patients are alive three years after diagnosis.

In work recently completed at the UW School of Veterinary Medicine, Masatoshi Suzuki, an assistant professor of comparative biosciences, and his colleagues used adult stem cells from human bone marrow and genetically engineered the cells to produce compounds called growth factors that can support damaged nerve cells.

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Medical College of Wisconsin researcher charged with economic espionage

Feds allege anti-cancer compound was stolen for China

By Bruce Vielmetti of the Journal Sentinel

A researcher at the Medical College of Wisconsin has been charged with stealing a possible cancer-fighting compound and research data that led to its development, all to benefit a Chinese university.

Huajun Zhao, 42, faces a single count of economic espionage, according to a federal criminal complaint, an offense punishable by up to 15 years in prison and a $500,000 fine.

Zhao was arrested Saturday and held without bail over the weekend pending a detention hearing in Milwaukee federal court on Monday, when he was ordered detained until trial. No date has been set.

John Raymond, president and CEO of the Medical College of Wisconsin in Wauwatosa, said the school is cooperating with the FBI, and directed all other questions to the FBI.

According to the complaint, Zhao worked as an associate researcher at the college, assisting professor Marshall Anderson by conducting experiments in pharmacology.

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UW study is key step toward treating disease with stem cells

By Mark Johnson of the Journal Sentinel

In a powerful demonstration of reprogramming's potential to treat human disease and injury, scientists at University of Wisconsin-Madison turned a rhesus monkey's skin cells into early brain cells, then implanted them successfully in the monkey's brain.

The experiment, published Thursday in the journal Cell Reports, worked so well that the reprogrammed cells grafted onto the brain and appeared indistinguishable from the cells already there. Scientists were able to identify the new cells only because they had been tagged with a glowing green fluorescent protein.

Before being injected with their own cells, the three monkeys in the study were engineered to simulate the effects of Parkinson's Disease.

Although the experiment was carried out on monkeys, the results suggest that such an approach could work in humans, raising the possibility that doctors might someday replace the neurons lost to Parkinson's or the cells damaged in spinal cord injuries.

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Amid massive security, bird flu virus research awaits approval

University of Wisconsin-Madison center aims to prepare people for possible mutations

By Karen Herzog of the Journal Sentinel

 

Madison - A bird flu virus at the center of an international debate sits in a padlocked freezer, deep inside a University of Wisconsin-Madison lab, waiting for new government guidelines that will allow researchers to continue unlocking its secrets.

The virus is protected by alarms.

It isn't deadly.

But government anti-terrorism rules dictate tight security around any biological agent that poses a potentially severe health threat.

Similar H5N1 avian influenza viruses circulating in nature don't follow anyone's rules.

They may be mutating into deadly threats capable of causing great loss of life, UW-Madison scientist Yoshihiro Kawaoka says, as he leads a hand-picked group of scientists, FBI agents and journalists on a rare tour of the $12.5 million Influenza Research Institute built exclusively for his research.

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UWM's Innovation Campus lands major office project; 350 jobs planned

Privately financed building adds momentum to satellite campus in Wauwatosa

By Tom Daykin of the Journal Sentinel

When University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee officials began working on plans for a satellite campus in Wauwatosa, they pitched the idea as a way to create partnerships between academia and business.

On Wednesday, four years of work led to an announcement of the first privately financed development at Innovation Campus. And that news could help attract more projects.

ABB Inc. plans to develop its new Milwaukee-area headquarters at Innovation Campus, bringing 350 jobs to that location. The three-story, 95,000-square-foot building will be located on three acres in the western portion of the business park, which is east of Highway 45, between W. Watertown Plank Road and Swan Blvd.

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Eye research could preserve patients' vision

By Amanda Alvarez of the Journal Sentinel

In a dark room, ocular biologist Joseph Carroll stares at a pulsing, speckled, black-and-white image on a computer screen. It's the back of Keri Gerlach's right eye - the retina, to be specific. A high-tech, expensive camera is taking pictures of her eye to follow the progression of a blinding disease called retinitis pigmentosa.

Outside it is sweltering, but inside the imaging room it is quiet and cold; machinery hums, dials are slowly turned to reach optimal focus, and the only words spoken are requests to "blink blink!" Carroll and the team at the Medical College of Wisconsin have been tracking Gerlach's eyes for 18 months, in anticipation of upcoming gene therapy trials that could restore vision to patients.

Taking extremely detailed pictures of the retina is a crucial first step in determining if a patient could benefit from treatment. With eye diseases on the increase, and therapeutic opportunities opening up through advances in genetics, seeing inside the eye is vital, and the pioneering work in this field is being done in Milwaukee.

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Medical College to join gene-sequencing partnership

By Kathleen Gallagher of the Journal Sentinel

The Medical College of Wisconsin has signed a collaboration agreement with Transgenomic Inc. that calls for the school to provide sophisticated gene-sequencing services for one of the company's products.

The parties did not disclose financial terms, but said the agreement could lead to further collaborations in the rapidly growing area of next-generation DNA sequencing, where high-powered machines are used to determine the exact order of chemical base pairs in a gene.

This is the first time the school's Human and Molecular Genetics Center has landed an agreement to provide such a service for a commercial venture, said Howard Jacob, the center's director.

"It helps us generate money to stay on the cutting edge," Jacob said. The center will use the money it earns to buy new equipment, do more research and hire additional people, he said.

Three of the genetics center's staff members have been licensed as clinical technicians and converted to the clinical lab, Jacob said. That number will probably grow to six in the next year, and possibly higher if things go well, he said.

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UW-Madison surpasses $1 billion in research spending

By Kathleen Gallagher of the Journal Sentinel

The University of Wisconsin-Madison crossed the $1 billion mark in research spending in fiscal 2010 and held its place as the third-biggest research institution in the country, according to new figures released by the National Science Foundation.

UW-Madison spent $1.03 billion on research in 2010, with about half of that coming from federal government funding, according to the agency, which collects the data for all U.S. academic institutions. The agency for the first time ever asked schools to break out the amount of funding that came from nonprofit institutions.

UW-Madison got $131.4 million of its research funding from nonprofits. It also received $11.6 million from businesses, the lowest among the top 10 research universities on the list.

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'NOVA' to Feature Advanced Genetics Research at Medical College, Children’s Hospital

The PBS science series focuses on efforts begun here to use sequencing of up to the whole genetic code of a patient to develop treatments for debilitating and life-threatening conditions that other methods cannot explain.

By Maureen Mack_West

The world’s first clinical genetics DNA sequencing program, housed at the Medical College of Wisconsin and Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin in Wauwatosa, will be featured in a new episode of “NOVA” produced by PBS.

The presentation airs at 8 p.m. Wednesday on Milwaukee Public Television (Channel 10).

The program explores how researchers, using techniques developed here, are examining patients' entire genetic codes to get at the causes of diseases that no other medical technologies can explain.

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UW superheating project aims to explore magnetic fields

Big aluminum sphere will heat gases to 500,000 degrees

By Karen Herzog of the Journal Sentinel

Researchers will be able to simulate the superheated gases that form the sun's magnetic field with a one-of-a-kind sphere that moved Wednesday into a new physics lab at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

The hollow aluminum sphere, built by four Wisconsin companies for $2.5 million, looks like the famous Death Star from "Star Wars" movies. Weighing 11,000 pounds, it was built to superheat gases to 500,000 degrees Fahrenheit.

Researchers say it will help them study how magnetic fields are generated in planets and stars, and better understand why the sun occasionally spews out particles that affect the Earth as "space weather," knocking out satellites and even taking down power grids, explained Cary Forest, a UW-Madison physics professor.

Forest is principal investigator for the effort, known as the Madison Plasma Dynamo Experiment.

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UW scientists grow neurons that integrate into brain

By Mark Johnson of the Journal Sentinel

Scientists at the University of Wisconsin-Madison have grown human embryonic stem cells into neurons that appear capable of adapting themselves to the brain's machinery by sending and receiving messages from other cells, raising hopes that medicine may one day use this tool to treat patients with such disorders as Parkinson's and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, commonly known as Lou Gehrig's disease.

Researchers inserted the human cells into the brains of mice where they successfully integrated themselves into the wiring. Then the UW team applied a new technology, using light to stimulate the human cells and watching as they in turn activated mouse brain cells.

In a lab dish, the brain cells or neurons began firing simultaneously "like a power surge lighting up a building," said Jason Weick, an assistant scientist at UW who worked on the study published online Monday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Weick said the use of light stimulation, called optogenetics, raises the possibility of modifying transplanted brain cells, in effect turning them up or down like the dimmer control on a light.

"You can imagine that if the transplanted cells don't behave as they should, you could use this system to modulate them using light," said Su-Chun Zhang, a UW professor of neuroscience and one of the authors of the new study.

For years, scientists have talked of the possibility of growing neurons in a dish to replace damaged cells in the brain, but there always have been questions about whether the transplanted cells could become fully functional.

But the new work at UW suggests the idea may be poised to make the transition from theory to reality.

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Institutions need to collaborate to turn research into jobs, report says

By Karen Herzog of the Journal Sentinel

Institutions must work together to transfer technologies from academic research laboratories to those who will use them to create businesses and jobs, and ultimately boost southeast Wisconsin's economy, says a report released Monday by the Public Policy Forum.

"It is clear that the region's academic research institutions have yet to capture the full economic development potential of their research," says the report by the nonpartisan, nonprofit group. "By collaborating more closely to identify local discoveries that fill gaps in the global market, and by working together to help create or grow local players in that market, academic leaders could take better advantage of their rapidly emerging research prowess."

Academic researchers seeking to bring new technologies to market may or may not get assistance from their institution, if the institution doesn't have a strong entrepreneurial climate, the report says. The greatest opportunity for economic impact comes from start-ups and spin-outs, which tend to be local, it says.

"There is consensus that the quality of the research is high, but that there is more potential for economic impact in these discoveries than is currently realized," the report concludes. "The regional data, as compared to national averages, seem to bear this out."

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Medical College of Wisconsin researchers show molecule inhibits metastasis

Researchers at the Medical College of Wisconsin have shown that a protein can inhibit metastasis of colon and melanoma cancers. The findings are published in the October 10, 2011 issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Michael B. Dwinell, Ph.D., director of the Bobbie Nick Voss Laboratory and associate professor of microbiology and molecular genetics, is the lead author on the paper.

Chemokines and chemokine receptors are extensively involved in metastasis of 23 different forms of cancer. The chemokine referred to as CXCL12 is naturally expressed in the bone marrow, lungs and liver, all organs where cancer commonly metastasizes, but is often repressed in colon, breast and lung cancers.

In previous studies, researchers from the Dwinell laboratory had shown CXCL12 to reduce tumor growth and metastasis in colon and breast cancers. In those experiments, CXCL12 was engineered to produce the protein. However, for this study, researchers administered wild-type CXCL12 (naturally occurring CXCL12) or different oligomeric structures, either "monomer" (single) CXCL12 or a "dimer," a paired CXCL12 protein molecule and compared the results for both tumor growth and metastatic suppression.

CXCL12 proteins effectively blocked metastasis of the colon cancer and dramatically improved survival time, with the dimer showing effectiveness in blocking melanoma metastasis as well. Together with their prior results, the laboratory has shown that repression of native CXCL12 expression is a key signature in colon cancer whose impact on tumor malignancy can be reversed by administering the chemokine proteins. They also demonstrated that the single or paired proteins blocked metastasis while initiating unique biochemical signals through the receptor CXCR4.

"These data establish CXCL12 as a potential avenue for the next generation of biologic therapies that specifically target metastasis, which is key in cancer treatment and the improvement of survival rates" said Dr. Dwinell.

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'Microgrids' energy storage project announced

Universities, businesses work together to make Wisconsin a leader

By Thomas Content of the Journal Sentinel

A new project aimed at making Wisconsin a national center of expertise for energy "microgrids" was announced Monday by a team that includes the state's four largest engineering schools and several large Milwaukee-area employers.

By using sophisticated new energy storage devices and battery systems, microgrid "energy islands" could function for some time off a main power grid if it were disrupted - and they also could maximize use of energy harnessed from renewable sources, such as solar and wind power.

Wisconsin companies are already working to develop technologies for advanced energy storage systems, including the state's largest company, Johnson Controls Inc., and one of its smallest ZBB Energy Corp. of Menomonee Falls. They see a market for using energy storage to overcome the challenges of renewable sources that stop making power when the sun sets or winds ease.

Military spending on microgrids is expected to grow fourfold between now and 2020, with Department of Defense spending alone expected to reach $1.6 billion by then, researchers at the market-research firm SB Energy said in a report this year.

Microgrids will be set up at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in 2012 and at UW-Madison's new Wisconsin Energy Institute Building, scheduled to open in 2013, according to the initiative by the Center for Renewable Energy Systems. The Center aims to conduct applied research to help Wisconsin companies develop projects for the renewable energy and energy storage markets.

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Marquette's new hall is an innovative engineering lab

By Kathleen Gallagher of the Journal Sentinel

If 30 Marquette University engineering students bounce up and down on their classroom floor, they have no way of knowing how much stress they put on the floor beams.

Soon, that will change.

The first 115,000-square-foot phase of the school's Engineering Hall opened to students this week. By the end of the semester, students will be able to touch a plasma screen in the commons area to see the stress on the beams beneath their bouncing feet. That data will be transmitted from some of the 120 sensors welded onto beams and other locations around the building.

Students also will be able to examine the different configurations of I-beams on each floor, conduct experiments on a green roof with solar panels, and use the molding machines, lasers and other equipment in the shop.

"It's a platform for innovation rather than a building," said Robert Bishop, dean of the engineering school. "Really, the students are only limited by their imaginations."

Bishop and others at Marquette are hailing Engineering Hall as a place where students can collaborate and understand how the building was put together - and where researchers can do work that was previously difficult, if not impossible, in the traditional classrooms of the old engineering building.

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Researchers' quest for gold

Scientists study element as nanoparticle, effect on female reproductive tract

By Kelly Hogan of the Journal Sentinel

July 18, 2011

For University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee researchers studying the toxicity of gold nanoparticles - a minuscule material with potentially big biomedical applications - the road to a new medical advance may or may not be paved with gold.

These ultrafine metallic particles, which are 1/80,000th the diameter of a human hair, hold great promise for treating diseases as diverse as cancer, diabetes or AIDS, but scientists must prove that new ways to treat disease will do no harm.

Reinhold Hutz, a professor of biological sciences at UWM, and graduate student Jeremy Larson are investigating whether gold nanoparticles target and disrupt the female reproductive tract - the only research of its kind in the United States.

Gold nanoparticles range in size from 1 to 100 nanometers; a nanometer is about one-billionth the size of a yardstick. Noting the remarkable scale of nanoparticles, Larson put the particles in perspective: "If a nanoparticle were the size of a football, a virus would be the size of a person."

What distinguishes nanoparticles from particles of other sizes is their unique physical and chemical properties. The compatibility of other biological molecules with gold nanoparticles, for example, renders them prime candidates for tissue-specific drug delivery.

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Former Hewlett-Packard exec to lead WARF's licensing team

By Kathleen Gallagher of the Journal Sentinel

Dec. 15, 2010 10:20 a.m.

The Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation, one of the country's biggest university technology transfer organizations, has named Hewlett-Packard's former director of intellectual property licensing as its chief technology commercialization officer.

Leigh Cagan will oversee the foundation's nine-member licensing team that works to match University of Wisconsin-Madison discoveries with companies that can develop the technology for commercial markets. About 370 companies now have licensing agreements with the foundation, which is known as WARF.

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UW-Madison chemists develop new stem cell system

By Mark Johnson of the Journal Sentinel

Nov. 15, 2010

Since James Thomson of the University of Wisconsin-Madison became the first person to derive and grow human embryonic stem cells in 1998, the accomplishment has remained a considerable challenge for labs. The cells, which can become any cell in the human body, are notoriously finicky.

Now, a team from UW-Madison has developed a fully defined culture system that should result in more uniform cells, according to an article in the journal Nature Methods. Although human embryonic stem cells are not yet approved for use in therapy, the new culture system should make them safer for such a use.

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AST gets a boost

Start-up receives $450,000 from investors

By Kathleen Gallagher of the Journal Sentinel

A Milwaukee start-up that is developing tools to help researchers capture images of proteins in living cells has raised $450,000 from individual investors.

Aurora Spectral Technologies LLC is aiming to bring products to market that will help researchers and drug developers look more closely at proteins and better analyze them.

That could help researchers develop new drugs and diagnostic tests, and might eventually help provide more insight into cancer and other diseases, said Brian Thompson, the UWM foundation's president.

Aurora Spectral's technology comes out of the lab of Valerica Raicu, an associate professor in the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee physics department. Thomas Mozer is the new company's chief executive officer. Mozer founded Nerites Corp. and also previously ran Promega Corp.'s forensic business.

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Michael Cudahy gives $2 million to UWM Innovation Par

Chancellor's departure, replacement's support for center paves way for donation

By Tom Daykin of the Journal Sentinel

Oct. 25, 2010

Last year's high-profile break between retired business executive Michael Cudahy and University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee has been mended - to the tune of $2 million that Cudahy says he'll donate to help fund UWM's Innovation Park development.

And that's largely due to the recent departure of UWM Chancellor Carlos Santiago, and support for his interim replacement, a university official who Cudahy says is strongly committed to the project.

Cudahy said Monday he would not have considered making the donation if Santiago were still chancellor. Innovation Park, planned for the County Grounds in Wauwatosa, would include a science research facility and privately developed buildings for technology-oriented companies.

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University, business partnerships urged to create more start-ups

By Tom Daykin of the Journal Sentinel

Oct. 25, 2010

Partnerships between university researchers and private businesses, including those envisioned for University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee's Innovation Park, are needed to help start companies in the Milwaukee area, speakers at a panel discussion said Monday.

However, similar efforts in other communities generally have not brought substantial job growth, one speaker said, and project backers should not oversell academic research as a "silver bullet" solution to lost jobs and Milwaukee's swelling number of poor families.

That latter view came from Marc Levine, a UWM history professor who's done research on economic development efforts. Levine and the other panel speakers - Jay Bayne, Milwaukee Institute executive director; Daniel Steininger, BizStarts Milwaukee co-founder; and Tom Still, Wisconsin Technology Council president - spoke to about 250 people at an event organized by the Public Policy Forum.

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State could lose millions in stem cell research funding

Congress could decide fate

By Jason Stein of the Journal Sentinel

Sept. 7, 2010

Wisconsin researchers and biotechnology companies stand to lose millions of dollars a year in federal funding for promising stem cell research because of a federal judge's ruling, Gov. Jim Doyle and university officials said Tuesday.

The State of Wisconsin will seek to file a friend of the court brief for an appeal to overturn that ruling, which temporarily blocked guidelines set down by President Barack Obama's administration expanding human embryonic stem cell research, Doyle said.

Also on Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth in Washington ruled that the Obama administration can't continue to fund embryonic stem cell research while appealing a ban on government support for any activity using cells taken from human embryos.

Lamberth rejected the government's motion to reconsider his ruling last month enforcing the ban pending an appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington. The Justice Department argued that Lamberth's injunction itself is causing irreparable harm to researchers, taxpayers and scientific progress.

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Reprogrammed cells retain some identity in embryonic state, study shows

By Mark Johnson of the Journal Sentinel

Posted: July 19, 2010 12:08 p.m.

Several years after scientists found a way to manipulate biology and send skin cells back to their embryonic origin, they are now learning that nature is not so easily tricked.

A reprogrammed skin cell retains a memory of its original identity as skin. Moreover, after the skin cell has returned to the embryonic state, it appears more willing to turn back into skin than to adopt a new identity.

The new findings by the lab of stem cell researcher George Daley at Children's Hospital Boston, were described Monday in a paper published online in the journal Nature and begin to address one of the mysteries surrounding reprogramming.

Since 2007 when the labs of James Thomson at University of Wisconsin-Madison and Shinya Yamanaka at Kyoto University first used a cocktail of genes to create an alternative to human embryonic stem cells, scientists have been puzzled by subtle differences between actual embryonic stem cells and these engineered versions.

The differences are important because the engineered cells were hailed as an alternative to embryonic stem cells that would allow scientists to make all of the cells in the human body while bypassing the ethical controversy that surrounded embryonic stem cells.

Daley said his team's work overthrows the assumption "that when you reprogram a skin or a blood cell you erase its memory of being skin or blood … Researchers have to appreciate the potential for this memory and erase it further or exploit it."

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IceCube telescope: Extreme science meets extreme electronics

Junko Yoshida
EE Times


MADISON, Wis. — The world’s largest telescope, currently under construction more than a mile beneath the Antarctic ice, is on schedule to be completed next year, according to a researcher at the University of Wisconsin, the lead institution for a scientific project called IceCube.

Ninety-five percent of the IceCube telescope, consisting of thousands of digital optical modules developed for scientists working to understand the universe, is already installed and operating at the South Pole, said Albrecht Karle, a physics professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in an interview with EE Times.

The IceCube telescope is no ordinary apparatus. With a volume of one cubic kilometer, the instrument is pointed not to the sky, but downward towards the center of the Earth, buried beneath tons of ice in the coldest spot in the world. No one will ever “look through” this telescope. Instead, it will convey its findings through vast arrays of digital sensors.

Scientists backed by the National Science Foundation are looking for very small, very elusive particles called neutrinos that can tell scientists much more about the universe than photons or charged particles.

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Genetic technology moving from lab to medical practices

Now it's doctors' turn to learn how to use genetic testing

By Mark Johnson and Kathleen Gallagher of the Journal Sentinel

Posted: May 22, 2010

In January, practicing doctors and doctors-to-be entered a new class at the Medical College of Wisconsin with a futuristic name, "Translational Genetics." The idea was simpler than it sounded: We are fast approaching the time when doctors will use our genetic profiles to treat us.

One of the students was Kevin Regner, a practicing kidney doctor at Froedtert Hospital, who had been hearing for years, "Personalized medicine is just around the corner." Doctors will tailor treatments to each patient's genes and the risks they reveal. It will all be routine.

Regner had doubts. Sequencing of the first human genome in 2003 took more than a decade and cost about $600 million - an effort too herculean to assume doctors would repeat it with patients and insurance companies would foot the bill anytime soon.

But Regner was in for a surprise. As he and his classmates listened, Howard Jacob, head of the college's Human and Molecular Genetics Center, described what has happened since completion of the genome project. He showed two photos: a machine that helped sequence the first human genome in 2003, and then a machine the Medical College has today. The new model does the work of 200 of the old ones; it can sequence a human genome in a few months for several hundred thousand dollars.

And the Medical College has already ordered next-generation sequencers. Within less than a decade, a complete genetic blueprint could be attainable in 15 minutes for as little as $100.

Moreover, in a case that suggests the technology is beginning the journey from research to medical practice, Jacob described how he and his colleagues used a targeted version of gene-sequencing to diagnose and treat an apparently new disease in a young boy at Children's Hospital of Wisconsin.

In the audience, Regner had a moment of recognition. "It's likely we'll see this kind of personalized medicine in my lifetime," he said, "and in the course of my medical practice."

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WARF loses a round in stem cell patent dispute

By Kathleen Gallagher of the Journal Sentinel

The Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation has suffered a blow in its effort to protect a key patent for embryonic stem cell technology.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office last week reversed an earlier decision in which it rejected an appeal on one of three basic human embryonic stem cell patents held by the foundation, known as WARF.

The patent in question covers early work done by University of Wisconsin - Madison stem cell pioneer James Thomson. The patent office said it now agrees with the argument made by two foundations that Thomson's work covered by the single patent could have been performed by other scientists with access to the same resources.

The rejection does not affect a decision the patent office made in early 2008 to uphold two other basic embryonic stem cell patents held by WARF.

"WARF has been invited by the Board of Patent Appeals to continue prosecution of this application and plans to do so and vigorously pursue these claims with the patent office," the foundation said in a statement.

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Dr. Derse named Director of Center for Bioethics and Medical Humanities at The Medical College of Wisconsin

Arthur R. Derse, M.D., J.D., will assume responsibilities as director of the new Medical College of Wisconsin’s Center for Bioethics and Medical Humanities, effective July 1, 2010.  The new center combines the College’s existing Center for the Study of Bioethics with its Medical Humanities Program.  The Center will be part of the College’s Institute for Community, Population and Public Health.

Arthur Derse2010According to Jonathan Ravdin, M.D., dean and executive vice president, “The goal of the new Center is to have an integrated approach to meet the education, research, clinical, and community health needs while enhancing the impact and academic excellence of both bioethics and medical humanities. Under Dr. Derse’s leadership we look forward to the growth of the Center as it continues to make major contributions to the missions of the College.”


Dr. Derse is currently a professor of bioethics and emergency medicine and was formerly the associate director of the Center for the Study of Bioethics and director of the Medical College’s Medical Humanities Program. He directs the Medical College’s Medical Ethics and Palliative Care course and medical humanities courses. He also directs graduate bioethics courses encompassing law, ethics education and ethics consultation in health systems. He was elected to the College’s Society of Teaching Scholars and is an Arnold Gold Foundation Humanism in Medicine awardee.

His appointments include chair of the Veterans Health Administration’s National Ethics Committee, senior consultant for academic affairs for the American Medical Association’s Institute for Ethics, and member of the American Bar Association’s Commission on Law and Aging. He is past president of the American Society for Bioethics and Humanities, and is a member and former chair of the Ethics Committee of the American College of Emergency Physicians. He is chair of Froedtert Hospital’s Ethics Committee and serves on several other institutional ethics committees and editorial boards of ethics journals including the American Journal of Bioethics and the Journal of Clinical Ethics.

Dr. Derse has been a member of many expert advisory boards and committees, including the NIH Working Group on Informed Consent in Clinical Research Conducted under Emergent Circumstances. He is a highly published investigator and scholar in bioethics and medical humanities.
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Marquette lands $5 million for engineering facility

By Amy Hetzner of the Journal Sentinel

Marquette University's new engineering facility got another big boost on Tuesday, with Gov. Jim Doyle announcing that the school will receive a $5 million grant from the Wisconsin Energy Foundation thanks to funding by the state.

"We know this is what we need," Doyle said during a morning announcement held in Marquette's current engineering building, across from its new home at N. 16th St. and W. Wisconsin Ave. "For us to compete, we need more engineers."

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